Leslie Graves

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Leslie B. Graves, formerly Leslie Key, is the president of the Lucy Burns Institute, a Madison-based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, which sponsors three websites: Ballotpedia, which tracks elections and ballot measures at the state level; WikiFOIA, which provides information on how to use Freedom of information laws at the state and local level; and Judgepedia, which provides information on the nation's judges and court systems.

Through these online resources, LBI says it is dedicated to "openness in politics on both sides of the aisle"[1] and "empowering ordinary citizens with ways to both learn about local government, and share the information they learn with others."[2] Even though the organization is a major proponent of transparency in government operations and budgeting, it provides limited information about how the organization itself is funded.

Graves and Petition Drives

In 2006, Graves started Renewal Voter 
Outreach,[3] registering it as a Nebraska Limited Liability Corporation (LLC).[4] The
 company was paid
 $1.4 million[5] to conduct petition drives for two ballot initiatives in Nebraska. One was in favor of a "Humane Care" amendment to the state constitution which would prevent the withholding of food and water from terminally ill patients at the request of their kin, unless there were a written "advance directive," or living will, specifying otherwise. According to The Omaha World-Herald, about one out of every five signatures[6] needed to get the amendment on the ballot, were
 thrown out.[7] The other petition drive was for a ballot measure to put a cap 
on state spending, which also failed. A blogger[8] traced the string of connections between a nonprofit organization, tied to her husband Eric O'Keefe (who previously sat on the board) and his daughter (who served as director),[9] which provided money to a group which then funded two other
 groups which in turn provided funding to Graves' LLC to collect the petitions.

Graves' Anti-Abortion Advocacy

Graves is as an adamant anti-abortion advocate. Graves has been heavily involved with Rachel's Vineyard, a Catholic ministry that offers weekend retreats for women who have had abortions.[10] Graves has worked as a facilitator of these retreats, authored a guidebook for others interested in hosting these retreats, and is former editor of the group’s newsletter. The group focuses on dealing with what the ministry calls "the sin of abortion” and says it aides women in what it describes as the process to “reconcile their sin with God."[11]The National Pastoral Director of the “world’s largest ministry of healing after abortion” is Father Frank Pavone, who was the spokesman for the Terri Schiavo parents and relatives during the controversy over whether to end her life.[12]

Graves' Links to the Libertarian Party

Graves, formerly known as Leslie Key, became the Wisconsin chair of the Libertarian Party in 1979 and served as a regional representative on the Libertarian National Committee until 1983.[13] Before her stint in politics, Leslie served as an editor for the Update newsletter, published by the Libertarian Review Foundation. The publication was criticized in the Libertarian Forum for being "an unofficial organ" disseminating the views of Ed Crane, the founder of the Cato Institute who served as its president until October 2012. A 1981 memo from Crane to Graves and David Koch illustrates the relationship: "David Koch has indicated he will kick in $10,000 to Update next year. If Leslie is very nice to him we might be able to talk him into $5,000 more (right, David?)."[14]

Graves' Husband

Graves is married to Eric O'Keefe the CEO of the conservative Sam Adams Alliance (SAM). O'Keefe has been featured at events funded by David Koch's Americans for Prosperity (AFP) group which is heavily involved in supporting right-wing politicians with independent expenditures and other assistance that stretches the limits of legality. O'Keefe is a right-wing political operative that has deep ties to the Koch brothers. He helped launch the American Majority Tea Party group which trains right-wing candidates to run for office. He sits on the Board of Directors of the Club for Growth Wisconsin, which ran divisive ads in support of Governor Scott Walker's radical overhaul of collective bargaining rights for Wisconsin workers. He has also served on the board of Koch's Institute for Humane Studies, the Center for Competitive Politics, and chairs the Health Care Compact Alliance.[15]

LBI took over Ballotpedia and Judgepedia from SAM in 2009[16] and continues to receive funding from SAM, as of their most recent IRS filing.[17] SAM is a 501(c)3 public charity that says it is devoted to pushing "free-market principles."[18] Of its $3.9 million budget,[19] SAM also provides funding to groups such as the Tea Party Patriots Foundation, the First Freedom Foundation, and the Citizens in Charge Foundation. SAM gets funding from the State Policy Network (SPN) which is partially funded by The Claude R. Lambe Foundation, a project of Charles Koch who co-owns Koch Industries with his brother David.

No Relation to Lisa Graves

Leslie Graves is not related in any way to the Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy (SourceWatch editor) in Madison, Wisconsin, Lisa Graves.[20]

Articles and resources


  1. Lucy Burns Institute, Home, organizational website, accessed November 2012.
  2. Lucy Burns Institute, FAQ, organizational website, accessed November 2012.
  3. Technology Marketing Corporation, "Petition's origins tied to at least nine states", Cross post from the Omaha World-Herald, August 27, 2006.
  4. Unlimited Terms of Endearment, Part VIII: America At Its Worst, The Daily Kos, August 4, 2006.
  5. Technology Marketing Corporation, "Petition's origins tied to at least nine states", Cross post from the Omaha World-Herald, August 27, 2006.
  6. New Nebraska Network, The Downside of "Humane Care" Amendment Not Making the November Ballot, Captures parts of an The Omaha World-Herald article which is no longer accessible, August 4, 2006.
  7. Jones and Bartlett Publications. "Right or Wrong: Legal and Ethical Issues and Decision-Making", Book Chapter, accessed November 2012.
  8. Unlimited Terms of Endearment, Part VIII: America At Its Worst, The Daily Kos, August 4, 2006.
  9. IRS,Americans for Limited Government IRS 990 Form, Guide Star, accessed November 2012.
  10. Patron Saint Productions, Inc. Rachel's Vineyard Blooms, August 2002.
  11. Rachel's Vineyard, "Post-Abortion Healing Reconciling an Abortion in the Catholic Church," organizational newsletter, September 1996.
  12. Priests for Life, Fr. Frank Pavone, organizational website, accessed November 2012.
  13. Libertarian Party of Wisconsin, LPedia, accessed November 2012.
  14. The Libertarian Forum, "Smear: The Story of Update -- Part I", Monthly newsletter, August 1982.
  15. "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s recall: Big money fuels small-government fight," The Washington Post, accessed November 2012.
  16. Lucy Burns Institute, "Lucy Burns Institute is the new sponsor of Ballotpedia and Judgepedia," organizational press release, June 2009.
  17. IRS, Sam Adams Alliance IRS 990 form, Guide Star, accessed November 2012.
  18. PR Newswire, "Sam Adams Alliance Launches New Website," Sam Adams Alliance press release, accessed November 2012.
  19. IRS, Sam Adams Alliance IRS Filing, Guide Star, accessed November 2012.
  20. Center for Media and Democracy, "The Lucy Burns Institute (Publishers of Ballotpedia, Judgepedia and WikiFOIA) and Her Right-Wing Bedfellows," November 26, 2012.

Related SourceWatch articles

External resources

External articles

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